Preaching

The Goal and Meaning of Expositional Preaching

I think that the best way to understand Ephesians 4:12 is to remove the commas: “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This verse is saying that the job of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and as a result, the church will grow. This is how Christ builds His church. But what resources does the pastor-teacher have to accomplish this? In 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2, the Apostle Paul tells us.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

John MacArthur has correctly drawn attention to the link between a belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and the need to preach it expositionally.

The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.

This is why whenever a church chooses a pastor, it should be a non-negotiable that the man be an expository preacher. Not everyone who claims to preach expositionally, actually does it. There may be some who don’t know the word, but do preach expositionally. Expositional preaching is preaching that takes as the point of the message, the point of the passage being preached. It’s not a special ability or a style, it is the pastor-teacher’s calling! It’s simply preaching the meaning of a text. Very simple, but it takes hard work to know the meaning of the text and communicate it to God’s people.

To put it another way, expositional preaching, as I once heard Danny Akin say, does not view a text as a peg to hang a bag of miscellaneous thoughts, but as a master that determines what is said. The calling of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints by the proclamation of the Word of God just as the Holy Spirit of God inspired it. It’s interesting that those who talk so much of the Spirit of God, prefer a method of preaching which basically says that the Holy Spirit did not do a good job organizing Scripture. Instead, they seem to think, they can do a better job.

What I Said Ten Years Ago (and still believe)

Ten years ago today, I preached my first sermon as pastor at Farmdale Baptist Church. I preached a sermon titled “Jesus Christ: The Builder of the Church” from Matthew 16:13-19. I focused on verse 18, where Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I said in part (and still say):

The word Jesus uses that is translated church in Matthew 16:18 is the Greek word ekklesia which is a compound of two words in Greek ek “out of” and kaleo “I call.” The church is a community of people called out from the world who have received the revelation from God that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s ultimately what unites us here at Farmdale Baptist Church. Not because we’re all natives of Central Kentucky, we’re not. Not because we’re all UK fans, we’re not. Not because we all have the same hobbies and interests, we don’t. We’re united here despite our differences because of a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of the church, the rock upon which Christ builds His church: the confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!

Jesus is the one building His church. He is the One who is calling out people to be a part of His ekklesia. I recently received in the mail an advertisement from a company whose slogan is “We build Christ’s church!” No, they don’t! They may build buildings, but they don’t build the church. Christ alone builds the church.

I’ll never forget hearing John MacArthur describe his response to a reporter who asked him about his desire to build the church. He said,

When a reporter asked me once if I had a great desire to build the church, I told him, “No. I have absolutely no desire to build the church. That’s not my job. Jesus said, ‘I will build My church,’ and I would rather not compete with Him. I simply want to allow Him to do that through me in a small way in one location.

I don’t want to be in competition with Jesus! Do we think we can do better? Our job is to be faithful to do what He has told us to do in His Word. As Mark Dever has summarized what the church is to do: Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible (through the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism). As ministers of the gospel, we are called to faithfulness, not success.

Whenever people have encouraged me by telling me how that God has helped them through my ministry, those words mean a lot to me. But if you want to know what I’m thinking when I hear those encouraging words, without fail it is amazement at the power of God’s Word simply proclaimed. I don’t have any great plans or programs to implement here other than preaching God’s Word verse-by-verse. If anyone is helped by my ministry it is a testimony to the power of the Word of God and not my abilities. This is what I’ve always desired. I desire that the testimony of the German Reformer Martin Luther would be mine:

I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.

Christ is building His church!

Is Pastor Appreciation Month a LifeWay Conspiracy or an Opportunity to Obey Scripture?

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It’s Pastor Appreciation Month. If Hallmark created some of the other holidays, perhaps LifeWay created this one! However, 1 Timothy 5:17 does instruct us to “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to all the pastors who I have sat under in my life as a church member. Since I have served as a pastor for the last 17+ years, I have only had four such pastors during my lifetime.

I am grateful for each of them and the particular ways that God used them in my life to shape me.

  1. Garry Weaver: This was my first pastor and the one who has had the most impact on me personally. He modeled selfless, sacrificial to his flocks and exemplified personal holiness and a committed prayer life.
  2. Hubert Troutman: Pastor Troutman (passed away a little over a year ago) was a lifelong family friend. He modeled kindness to all and love for the Lord and His people. He and his wife, Betty, had the spiritual gift of hospitality.
  3. Ray Bearden: Pastor Bearden modeled expository preaching through books of the Bible. His faithfulness to preach the Bible was a great example to me. He also provided an excellent model of professionalism and leadership over various ministries. He also provided excellent counsel and mentorship as I began my preaching ministry under his care (22 years ago this December!).
  4. David Gamble: Pastor Gamble became a very close friend as I served with him as an associate minister at Grace Baptist Church in Newport, Tn. David and his wife, Renee, modeled professionalism, kindness, thoughtfulness, and classiness. I learned so much from watching them interact with people with kindness and concern. Their thoughtfulness and thankfulness have made me better at those graces than I otherwise would have been.

There are many others who I have known as friends or from whom I have learned from afar. I’m thankful to God for each of these men and the impact they have had and continue to have in my life.

Bible Software for the Pastor On the Go

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I love books. I have thousands of them that surround me both at my home and church study. In the past couple of years, however, I have discovered the advantage of having a digital library for life on the go. Between my ministry at Farmdale Baptist Church and my ministry at the Kentucky State Capitol, along with a few other opportunities here and there, I usually preach or teach the Bible six to eight times a week. This requires me not only to stay on the go, but also to be able to study on the go. This is where Logos Bible Software has become a huge blessing to me over the past year or so.

Logos allows me to have access to a complete biblical and theological library anywhere and anytime. This is extremely helpful as I am sometimes studying at home, other times at church, and even more often at the local coffee shop. Before I started using Logos I would have to carry a box of commentaries with me everywhere I went (I know you can photocopy specific pages and take with you in a folder, but I have never been that far ahead in preparation and never had a secretary to do that kind of task.). Even on family vacations or visiting family on holiday, I would carry a large box of books with me because for the pastor there is always a Sunday approaching soon. Now, while I still take some books, most of my reference works are readily available on my tablet or laptop. I often have as many as ten different commentaries on a passage open on my Logos program on my laptop. Those commentaries stay open throughout a sermon series to exactly where I am in the book of the Bible (you can configure the settings to sync the books to the same passage and to open where you close it each time). This is both a time and space saver. I no longer have to several books open on my desk at the same time (although I still do it sometimes for fun and old times sake!).

Another feature that I love about Logos is the app for my Android tablet (the same is available for iPads). It is a free app that provides access to your entire digital library. In other words, any book that you own for your desktop software is available on the app (I should mention this app also works on smartphones.). What I love most about the app is that it allows you to read the books in your Logos library in Kindle-like fashion. One of the difficulties with owning virtually any of the Logos packages, is that you have more books than you can even remember that you have. Also, having books that are only accessible on your computer are not very reader-friendly. Using the app enables you to read one book at a time, whether at home at night waiting to fall asleep or on the beach. This gives you a virtually inexhaustible supply of reading and study material while on the go.

Disclaimer: Logos provided me a free copy of one of their base packages for the promise of a review. I was not required to give a positive review. Because of the usefulness of the software as noted above, I have subsequently purchased multiple add-ons to the original base package given to me. 

 

A Picture of a True Minister (from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress)

In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes a scene in which Christian enters the house of one called “Interpreter” (who represents the Holy Spirit). In this house he is shown many “profitable” things. The first such is a picture which is described as follows:

Christian saw the picture a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it: It had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon its lips, the world was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.

After Christian asked what the picture meant, Interpreter explained:

The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand: he can beget children (1 Cor. 4:15), travail in birth with children (Gal. 4:19), and nurse them himself when they are born. And whereas thou seest him with his eyes lift up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, and the law of truth writ on his lips: it is to show thee, that his work is to know, and unfold dark things to sinners; even as also thou seest him stand as if he pleaded with men. And whereas thou seest the world as cast behind him, and that a crown hangs over his head; that is to show thee, that slighting and despising the things that are present, for the love that he hath to his Master’s service, he is sure in the world that comes next, to have glory for his reward. Now, said the Interpreter, I have showed thee this picture first, because the man whose picture this is, is the only man whom the Lord of the place whither thou art going hath authorized to be thy guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way: wherefore take good heed to what I have showed thee, and bear well in thy mind what thou hast seen, lest in thy journey thou meet with some that pretend to lead thee right, but their way goes down to death.

The footnote in this edition adds:

This is a true picture of a gospel minister, one whom the Lord the Spirit has called and qualified for preaching the everlasting gospel. He is one who despises the world – is dead to its pleasures and joys; his chief aim is to exalt and glorify the Lord Jesus, his atoning blood, justifying righteousness, and finished salvation; and his greatest glory is to bring sinners to Christ, to point him out as the one way to them and to edify and build up saints in him. But there are many who profess to do this, but turn poor sinners out of the way, and point them to a righteousness of their own for justification in whole or in part. Of these the Spirit teaches us to beware; the former, he leads and directs souls to love and esteem highly for their labours and faith in the Lord, and zeal for his honour and glory, and for the salvation of souls. Take heed what you hear. – Mark iv.24.

What a beautiful and convicting picture of a true gospel minister! May God grant multitudes of such, while delivering us from those who would lead astray.

Andrew Fuller on Spiritual Preaching as Gospel Preaching

Near the end of his life, Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) ruminated on spiritual preaching in a letter dated February 21, 1813, to his Scottish friend Christopher Anderson.

I have been thinking of late [1813] of the force of the petition, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” As spiritual things are spiritually discerned, if the Lord leave us to ourselves, we shall lose sight of the gospel, and somehow get beside it. I have heard many ingenious sermons, and perhaps preached some, in which the gospel was overlooked; and if a sinner heard it, and never heard the way of salvation before, he might have died, and gone to the bar of God, for any thing he could have heard then, without having been told his danger, or the way of salvation. Take not thy Holy Spirit from us! It is for want of spirituality of mind, surely, that there is so much orthodox, and at the same so little evangelical preaching.

Joseph Belcher, ed., The Last Remains of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, [1856]), 361. For the full text of the letter, see Hugh Anderson, The Life and Letters of Christopher Anderson (Edinburgh: William P. Kennedy, 1854), 214-215.